Domestic Law Reforms in Post-Mao China

By Pitman B. Potter | Go to book overview
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In the year or two after the Tiananmen tragedy, even the reformist approach seemed likely to get short shrift in any reconsideration of press legislation. Given the importance and reach of modem mass communications, however, the issues surrounding the role of the news media in China's modernization and political life were not about to disappear. One could anticipate that when debates on journalism reform reemerged, they might be further along than where they left off. For instance, they might give more weight to the claims of inherent entitlement that underlay student demonstrators' demands for freedom of the press in 1989. An important question for future study of China's press law efforts is likely to be how incipient notions of natural rights blend with traditional emphases on the collectivity and social good. As for how the press law that eventually emerges would actually work, and the extent to which even an expansively worded law might further freedom of the press in China in practice, this surely will hinge on larger developments in Chinese politics and society in the years to come.

Xinwen zhanxian ( News battlefront), 1989, no. 1, p. 18.
Renmin ribao ( People's daily), 3 September 1989, pp. 1-2.
Andrew J. Nathan, Chinese Democracy ( Berkeley: University of California Press, 1985), pp. 108-9.
See discussion of this common understanding in Xinwen chuban bao (Press and publications journal), 27 January 1988, p. 3.
On the press corps' role in the upheaval of 1989, see Michael J. Berlin, "Chinese Journalists Cover (and Join) the Revolution", Washington Journalism Review, September 1989, pp. 33-37: Donald R. Shanor, "The 'Hundred Flowers' of Tiananmen", 3 Gannett Center Journal, no. 4 ( Fall 1989), pp. 128-36; Frank Tan, "The People's Daily: Politics and Popular Will--Journalistic Defiance in China During the Spring of 1989", 63 Pacific Affairs, no. 2 ( Summer 1990), pp. 151-69.
Reports on arrests of Chinese journalists after June 1989 are available from watchdog organizations such as the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists and Asia Watch.
The most prominent of these were the Shanghai weekly Shijie jingii daobao ( World economic herald) and the magazine Xinguancha ( New observer). One government source told me in the spring of 1990 that about 400 publications had been shut down or merged, many for reasons related to economic management and only a small proportion for political reasons. This was the second wave of closings and mergers; on an earlier consolidation drive in 1987, see note 82.
On the journalism reform movement, see Kenneth Starck and Yu Xu, "Loud Thunder, Small Raindrops: The Reform Movement and the Press in China", 42 Gazette, no. 3 ( 1988), pp. 143-59.
The Four Cardinal Principles were raised not long after the launching of China's economic reform program in late 1978; see Deng Xiaoping, "Uphold the Four Cardinal Principles", March 1979, in Selected Works of Deng Xiaoping, 1975-1982 ( Beijing: Foreign Languages Press, 1984), pp. 166-91. In reference to the press, see speech by Jiang Zemin, appointed party general secretary after Tiananmen, reported in Renmin ribao of 30 November 1989, p. 1, with full text published 2 March 1990, pp. 1, 4; and speech by Li


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